God made humans to be kings and priests – but why?

Peter describes the people of God as “a royal priesthood” in 1 Peter 2:9. It’s a combination of kings and priests. And the purpose of being kings and priests is to “declare the praises (or virtues) of God” (same verse). According to Peter, then, a royal priesthood makes who God is – in all his excellent virtues, or qualities – both visible and obvious.

But how does being a “king” and a “priest” do that? What’s so special about those two terms?

There’s a clue in God making us in his image. By making us kings and priests it must mean he’s a king and a priest too. Or put the other way round – if he’s a king and a priest then we, as perfect little images of him, must be kings and priests too.

But what do the words “king” and “priest” mean in God’s terms?

Again, there’s a clue in Genesis, because it makes clear right off the bat that God is in charge. It was by his authority and his word that our world came into being. He then set up shop here himself and took charge of what happened next. So, God is all about authority. It’s not surprising, then, that when he made humans in his image he gave us the job of “ruling” and gave us authority too. In an exact reflection of himself he put us in charge.

So that’s the “king” part sorted out. It means authority, rulership, and being in charge. But what about the “priest” part? What does that mean in God’s terms?

We have our clue in what God gave that first man to do. He gave the man a garden to care for. He gave him birds and animals to name. He created a woman from the man’s own body. What that did to the man was teach him how to care – care for the plants and trees, care for the birds and animals, and care for this lovely creature that came from himself. All of which God obviously cared for too, so in making this man in his image, he equipped him to care just as he does. And there you have an obvious description of a “priest” in God’s terms. Priests care.

Kings and priests combined together, therefore, means “caring authorities”. And in that simple phrase we have the perfect picture of God, and what he created us to be, as little images of him.

We make his excellent qualities known, therefore, by taking charge of this planet and caring for it. Wherever we go and whatever we do we make absolutely sure that the plants, trees, birds, animals and our fellow humans flourish.